“Excuse me, Paul, but if this is too personal, I’ll understand.”
Paul looked at his new literacy tutor with a calm expression and smiled. “What is it you want to know?”
“It’s just that you are so different from any student I’ve had to date, and you’re…”
“Older than most?” Paul finished for him.
John smiled, picking up a sheet of paper in front of him. “Your counselor says you’re a supervisor at Costco here in town. You live in a nice home, drive a nice car,” he turned the page, “and you’ve raised a family with two grandkids.” He laid the paper down on the table in the small private library conference room being used for Paul’s lessons. “In a word, for a man who can’t read, you’re remarkable.”
“In a lot of ways I’ve been a lucky man, but that same luck has come around and bit me in the rear more than once.”
“How do you mean?”
“Like in school, I was quick witted and a good athlete. Teachers said I just didn’t’ apply myself but had great potential. Truth be known, I had a gift for blarney and could blather my way out of just about anything.” He pursed his lips as if angry at himself.
“And none of the teachers wanted to be responsible for holding you back,” John added for him, “I’ve heard it a thousand times over. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I thought it was all cool at the time. The world was my oyster and I went along with a big ole pearly smile on my face.”
“And now there are regrets?”
“Lots. I’ve embarrassed myself, lied and cheated; so many things…”
“It’s okay, I understand.” A silent moment passed between them. John said, “Okay, let’s get started, but first let me ask you one last question. Why do you want to learn to read?”
“I heard once that faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God. I want to read where that is in the Bible and share it with my grandkids.” He shook his head. “My own daughter isn’t saved and I take most the responsibility for that. It’s my greatest regret, not being able to read to her from the Bible when she was younger.”
John nodded, silently.
“Just between us, I want the Bible to be the first book I own and I want my grandkids to hear God’s words read by me. I want to be part of the birth of their faith; and maybe, when God hears me reading, He can forgive me, too for the mess I made of my life.”
“I understand,” John said, knowingly.
The next following months were not always easy, expectations and goals tangled and snared in everyday life. But Paul succeeded in completing his literacy course; and, on the last day of his class in the now familiar conference room, John had a gift for him.
“What is it?” Paul asked.
“You said you wanted it to be the first book you ever read. I wanted the honor to be the one giving it to you.”
Paul’s face lit up. “I…I don’t know what to say.”
“No need to, but you can read something for me. I’ve placed a bookmark there in the pages.”
Paul blushed and his hands trembled as he opened to the marked page. “Isaiah 43 verse 18 and 19,” John told him.
‘“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.’” John began in a halting voice. He looked up at his mentor, tears forming.
“Go on,” John encouraged.
“‘Behold, I will do a new thing…” He glanced back to meet John’s eyes. “Is this true?”
“A divine promise, my friend.”
Suddenly, there was a rustling at the door. Two women entered, followed by two children who ran to Paul crying, “Granddad! Granddad!” while throwing their arms around him.
The younger women walked over and kissed him on the cheek. “Hey, Dad,” she smiled. The other woman did likewise, but whispering, “Surprise!” in his ear.
Without preamble, Paul gathered his family around the table. “I have something I want to read, to all of you,” he said
The room became quiet as he opened his Bible to another passage John had marked for him. “‘So then faith cometh by hearing,” he read, “and hearing by the word of God.’” He paused, looking up, his heart swelling, his eyes tearing, as he witnessed the miracle of God answering a reader’s prayer.
Isaiah 43: 18-19 (KJV)
Romans 10: 17 (KJV)
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